Kinky, colourful, and queer: Why Chappell Roan is the most exciting thing in pop since Lady Gaga

By Charlie Sawyer

Updated May 9, 2024 at 02:36 PM

Reading time: 3 minutes

Music has a tendency to take itself way too seriously. Thankfully, however, we have artists like Chappell Roan who know exactly how to inject some fun back into the industry. More importantly, the 26-year-old is doing very important work by releasing music that’s catered specifically for anxious little girlies who simply want some gay pop to bop along to. But who exactly is Roan? How did she first become famous? And why can’t I get the ‘HOT TO GO!’ dance routine out of my head?

@chernistry

shouldve mirrored my G pose helpppp @chappell roan #gutstour #chappellroan #hottogo

♬ original sound - cher

In this article, we’re going to delve into Roan’s career, how she managed to tour with two of Gen Z’s favourite indie white boys (aka Vance Joy and Declan McKenna), her friendship with Olivia Rodrigo, her Coachella set, and why some people are saying that she’s the Lady Gaga of her generation. Slay.

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A post shared by ・゚: *✧ Chappell Roan ✧*:・゚ (@chappellroan)

Who is Chappell Roan?

Chappell Roan, born Kayleigh Rose Amstutz, was raised in Missouri in the US. The oldest of four children, the singer has described her childhood as seeped in religion, conservativism, and homophobia—a common occurrence in the Midwest.

With a mind as creative as Roan’s, it’s no surprise that she soon careered away from this stringent environment and embraced a much more colourful and exciting existence. Everything about the singer screams maximalism, and it’s something I can seriously respect and appreciate. If the female pop stars of the 90s were written by a man, Chappell Roan was definitely written by a woman.

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A post shared by ・゚: *✧ Chappell Roan ✧*:・゚ (@chappellroan)

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by ・゚: *✧ Chappell Roan ✧*:・゚ (@chappellroan)

Having been interested in music from a young age, and uploading covers on YouTube since the age of 13, Roan signed with Atlantic Records in 2015 when she was still in high school. Let’s just say the girl has been working her arse off since puberty.

Following this, Roan immediately began releasing singles and supporting other artists on tour. As previously mentioned, she backed up indie kings Vance Joy and Declan McKenna in 2017 and 2018 respectively.

@gore.wh0re420

@chappell roan opening for vance joy at the seattle showbox in 2017

♬ GOOD LUCK BABE by CHAPPELL ROAN - Chappell’s Fandom 👑

To say that Roan hasn’t had an easy go of trying to get the industry to understand her artistry would be an understatement. Roan’s music is incredibly special, but it’s taken a lot of time for people outside of the queer community to truly appreciate it.

In 2020, Roan released ‘Pink Pony Club’, a song dedicated to The Abbey, an iconic gay bar in Los Angeles. Speaking with Headliner Magazine, Roan explained how the bar made her feel: “All of a sudden I realised I could truly be any way I wanted to be, and no one would bat an eye. It was so different from home where I always had such a hard time being myself and felt like I’d be judged for being different or being creative. I just felt overwhelmed with complete love and acceptance, and from then on I started writing songs as the real me.”

The single, an immediate hit with the Lady Gaga stans of the world, was deemed unprofitable by Atlantic and Roan was dropped by her label. A flop move, Atlantic.

By 2022, Roan was working on her music independently and taking odd jobs in order to stay afloat. And then, as if like a fairy from some magical land created by lesbians, Roan gifted us with ‘Feminonomenon’, an electric track that’s left a permanent imprint on my brain.

@itsoundsalternative

What we really need is a femininomenon ✨ Chappell Roan - Coachella 2024 #chappellroan #music #coachella #livemusic #concerts #femininomenon

♬ sonido original - It Sounds Alternative

Fast forward to August of 2022, two or three synth-y bops later, and a friendship with one of the most famous singers on the planet, and Roan was finally getting the attention she deserved.

Chappell Roan and Olivia Rodrigo

In 2022, and again in 2024, Roan joined Rodrigo on her Sour and Gutz tours—both of which were incredibly commercially successful. This opened Roan up to a massive new audience, many of whom were thrilled to see a literal fireball on stage.

@chappellroan

Thank you @Olivia Rodrigo for having me. It was so so amazing and I love u 💖#indieartist #queerpop #popmusic

♬ original sound - chappell roan
@bristsh

icon in the making tbh @chappell roan #sourtour #oliviarodrigo #chappellroan @Olivia Rodrigo

♬ original sound - bridget

In fact, Roan’s recent stint during Rodrigo’s Gutz tour has proved to be incredibly impactful on the artist’s online popularity. According to Billboard, the 26-year-old’s streaming catalogue enjoyed a 32 per cent bump during the first weekend of the tour, from 941,000 streams from 17 to 18 February to 1.24 million streams from 24 to 25 February.

Chappell Roan tour and ‘The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess’

I think it’s also important for us to recognise how Roan has used her own platform to stand up for the rights of drag queens across the US. The singer has always been incredibly vocal about how drag has influenced her own music and indeed her persona on stage.

@queerty

#ChappellRoan on her journey to stardom and how drag culture inspired her style and sound and what she hopes her shows create for her LGBTQ+ fans. 😍🌈 #lgbtq #dragculture #drag

♬ original sound - Queerty*

In fact, during her tour for her debut full-length album The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess, Roan opened each of her shows with different drag performers. Moreover, the singer donated $1 per ticket sold to For The Gworls, a Black trans-led collective dedicated to helping improve the lives of Black queer individuals.

Chappell Roan at Coachella

If Roan’s time on tour with Rodrigo boosted her mainstream popularity, the singer’s performance at Coachella 2024 solidified her as a pop force of nature. Also, did I mention that this was her first festival performance… Ever?

Speaking with Vogue about the experience, Roan shared: “To be playing Coachella as my first festival is surreal. I can’t believe it. I’ve always heard of it growing up, but I genuinely have no idea what to expect… except to have fun.”

Chappell Roan is undoubtedly one of the most exciting artists out there right now. And more importantly, she’s bringing so much queer joy to kids across the US who are currently witnessing a direct attack on LGBTQIA+ rights and communities.

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